"Where special kids and horses shine."

Meet Our Staff

Board of Directors

Kari Pilbeam
Board Chair/Treasurer

Beth Lippincott
Vice President

Melissa Jones

Charmaine Gallagher

Claire Chadwick

Harvey Thomas

Sarah Allen

Tom Weston

Milinda Kirkpatrick
Executive Director 
(non-voting member)


Advisory Board

Norman Manley, CPA
BDO Seidman (partner)

David Thurman, Attorney
Thurman, Wilson, and Boutwell

Chelsea Smith, RN
Carolina's Institute of Rehabilitation

Jim Gallagher, Supervisory Principal, City Councilman
Wells Fargo

Milinda Kirkpatrick

Milinda Kirkpatrick
Executive Director, PATH Registered Instructor

Milinda is the founder of SHF as well as a PATH registered riding instructor. She enjoys being married to Paul Kirkpatrick, who has been the main supporter of SHF since its conception.  She has three children, Jessi, Katie, and Connor who are also responsible for the success of the farms.

Tina Moser

Tina Moser
Billing Specialist

Tina graduated from the University of Illinois. She keeps the insurance billing moving in the office and loves to run in her spare time.

Jessamyn Farrell
Assistant Director

Jess originally began as our AmeriCorps VISTA in 2012. She moved to North Carolina from New York City and served as our initial volunteer coordinator, grant writer, fundraiser, board of directors liason, and community outreach contact.

Jean Penner

Jean Penner
Development Director 

Jean was raised in the Midwest and attended Eastern Illinois University with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. While working with individuals who sustained traumatic brain injuries Jean was introduced to Hippotherapy. When she moved to NC she learned about Shining Hope Farms and has been a fan ever since.  Jean is married to Joe and has two teenage children. 

Katie Kirkpatrick

Katie Kirkpatrick
Business Manager

Katie helped start SHF with her family and has helped the farm in various areas throughout the years. She took a sabbatical to live in Nashville and travel the country but has returned to the farm family to help wherever needed. 

Kelly Coney Pacious
Physical Therapist, AHA Level 2 Therapist, HPCS Certified Therapist, PATH Intl. Registered Instructor

Kelly graduated from Ithaca College with her Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate in PT. After finishing her Doctorate, she moved to Charlotte and began her career towards Hippotherapy. Kelly loves animals and began riding when she was 3 years old and still has her first horse—now 38. In her free time she enjoys being a foster parent with her husband, raising guide dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, completing hospital and school visits with her therapy dog and spending time with her husband, 3 dogs and 3 cats.


Debbie Cloy

Debbie Cloy
Program Director, Gaston Farm Point of Contact/Schedule Coordinator, PATH Intl. Registered Instructor

Debbie has been with Shinning Hope since 2008.  She became a PATH International registered instructor in 2009.  She has completed level II Equine Skills and Long Line training from the American Hippotherapy Association.  She actively participates in PATH Region 3 conferences and workshops.  She and her husband Mike have been married for 32 years and they have two children and two grandchildren.

Jessi Kirkpatrick

Jessi Culbertson
Equine Specialist, Barn Manager - Mecklenburg Farm, PATH Intl. Registered Instructor

Jessi graduated from CPCC with an Associate’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology and plans to complete her BS at University of North Carolina by 2013. She's certified as a Registered Riding Instructor through PATH, Intl. and a Graduate H rating from the United States Pony Club. Jessi has also been instructing riders of all ages and training equines for Eventing and lesson mounts the past 12 years.

Rex Culbertson
Facility Manager - Mecklenburg Farm

Rex married into Shining Hope Farms and is Jessi's husband. He assists in the general operations, horsecare, group projects, and farm maintenance on a day to day basis. He continues to serve in the Air National Guard and holds several degrees in Aircraft Maintenance.

Delane Clark

Delane Clark
Physical Therapist, AHA Level 2 Therapist

Since 2006, Delane has been involved with Shining Hope Farms as a physical therapist. While Delane has worked in a variety of pediatric physical therapy settings, she finds the outdoor environment and hippotherapy ideal for helping children with neurological and musculoskeletal conditions improve their function. Delane has completed American Hippotherapy Association Level I and Level II training.

Leslie Weatherhead

Leslie Weatherhead
Physical Therapist, AHA Level 1 Therapist

Leslie earned her bachelors degree in physical therapy from Bowling Green State University and her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Montana in 2012. She has practiced PT in Ohio, Florida and now North Carolina, working with adults and children. She was an instructor in a physical therapist assistant program prior to moving to NC. Having loved horses since childhood, Leslie is thrilled to use the movement of and interaction with the horses and ponies for helping improve the function of our patients!

Ashley Seal
Occupational Therapist, AHA Level 2 Therapist

Ashley grew up in Mt. Airy, NC and relocated to Charlotte with her husband.  She attended Lenoir Rhyne University where she received her Bachelor in Science in 2007 and her Masters of Science in 2009.  She currently works in both geriatric and pediatric settings.


Dawn Hancock

Dawn Hancock
Occupational Therapist, AHA Level 2 Therapist

Dawn relocated to Charlotte from Texas.  She is an Occupational Therapist with her AHA Level 2 status.  Her specialty is working with children with sensory issues.  Dawn has her own horse that she enjoys riding in her free time.

Stephanie Piatt

Stephanie Piatt
Occupational Therapist, AHA Level 2 Therapist

Stephanie is an AHA Level 2 Occupational Therapist.  She loves being the mom of 3 adorable children.

Carolyn Lindsay

Carolyn Lindsay
Physical Therapy Assistant, PATH Registered Therapist,
Specialization Certification/Developmental Disabilities

Carolyn has been providing physical therapy to clients for 11 years and specializes in Hippotherapy at Shining Hope Farms/Gaston County.

Emily Jones
Barn Manager and Riding Instructor

Emily first learned how to ride at Shining Hope Farms in 2007. Her love of riding, training and competing has only grown since. She has competed in both Dressage and Hunter Jumpers for the majority of her riding career. She is currently enrolled at CPCC and plans to transfer to UNCC to finish her BA degree while still incorporating her passion, horses! Emily now teaches riding lessons at the Gaston location and absolutely loves sharing her experience and equine enthusiasm with others. 

Madison Hood

Madison Hood
PATH Intl. Registered Instructor, and CHA Level III Certified Instructor

Madison has always loved horses, but was never able to work with them until she started at Shining Hope Farms. Now she feels she has found her true passion and God's calling for her life: teaching others how to ride no matter the age, skill level, or disability.

Toni Keating
PATH Intl. Registered Instructor

Toni's childhood dream of riding was not realized until college. Her next 25 years in the saddle included Dressage, Hunter/Jumpers and Foxhunting. Her degree enabled her to become a recreation therapist and with this degree and her love for horses she found the perfect marriage in therapeutic horseback riding. She believes that in teaching at the barn as well as homeschooling her four kids, she is truly giving back to her community and make a lasting contribution to the future. She finds it to be a very fulfilling life.

Leslie Lytton

Leslie Lytton
Billing Specialist, PATH Intl. Registered Instructor

Leslie began as a volunteer at Shining Hope Farms.  She has been around horses most of her life.  You will see her horse leading and side walking with riders. She is certified as a Registered Riding Instructor through PATH, Intl. Leslie also rides her own horse in US Dressage Federation shows.  She has earned USDF Bronze and Silver Medals.

Leslie Lytton

Elisabeth Larson
PATH Intl. Registered Instructor, Mecklenburg Farm Point of Contact/Schedule Coordinator

Elisabeth (“Liz”) started her horse career at the age of five in competitive vaulting in Germany, where she later taught vaulting and riding lessons. Elisabeth moved to the US for college, has a BA in History, and aims to go to law school in the future. She learned about SHF through her husband, a volunteer. Liz teaches riding lessons at the Meck Farm. The Farm allows her to reconnect with her love for horses and share it with an amazing group of people!

Colleen Nolan

Colleen Nolan
Speech Therapist, AHA Level 1 Therapist

Colleen Nolan is a North Carolina licensed and ASHA certified speech-language pathologist. She received a Master's degree in Communication Disorders from Emerson College in Boston, MA in August 2004 and has been practicing as a speech-language pathologist since September 2004.

Lynne Knox
Occupational Therapist, AHA Level 1 Therapist

Lynne has always had a passion for horses and an interest in helping children excel. Graduating from The Ohio State University with dual degrees in Psychology and Occupational Therapy, she worked primarily with pediatrics. After raising four children with her husband John, she is thrilled to return to her focus and to be able to share the gift of the horse to promote increased function and well-being in others!

Lynne has always had a passion for horses and an interest in helping children excel. Graduating from The Ohio State University with dual degrees in Psychology and Occupational Therapy, she worked primarily with pediatrics. After raising four children with her husband John, she is thrilled to return to her focus and to be able to share the gift of the horse to promote increased function and well-being in others!

Verena Stock
PATH Intl. Registered Riding Instructor

Verena already discovered her love for horses as a child growing up in Germany. She is a certified "Bereiter", which qualifies her to teach humans and horses in the disciplines of dressage and stadium jumping. After relocating to the U.S. in 2002 she added exercising racehorses and steeple chasers at the race track as well as combined driving and endurance riding to her forte. This was followed by a PATH Intl. certification in 2011 to teach horsemanship and horseback riding skills to people in need.

Sarah Lafone
PATH Intl. Registered Riding Instructor

Sarah has always had a love for horses and began riding at age seven. She knew that she wanted to pair her love of horses with her desire to serve children and youth. At 16 she began volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility and I fell in love! She got a degree as a therapeutic recreation assistant from WPCC and afterwards, became certified as a PATH Intl. Registered Instructor. She is also trained in Natural Lifemanship and is currently getting certified as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. She feels God has called her to this work and she can't wait to see all the miracles He will make happen!

Susan Pearce
Physical Therapist, AHCB Certified Therapist

Susan graduated from UNC-CH in Recreation Adm/Psych, then from Duke University with MS in Physical Therapy in 1983. She specialized in adult neurorehabilitation until taking time from PT to raise her two sons, Andrew and Matthew, with husband her Ed. She returned to PT in pediatric early intervention and became an AHCB Certified Therapist in the fall of 2012. She loves to train and ride horses for trail and dressage. “I’m thankful that God has given me the opportunity to combine my “horse life” with my “career life.”

SarahAnna Spinelli
Therapy Assistant

SarahAnna is a home-school student who started volunteering with Shining Hope Farms in 2009. She enjoys horseback riding and horse care.